And I think it's fucking bullshit.
Well, let's be honest here. I used to use the term a lot to dismiss female characters who seemed like Plain Jane characters who would ~suddenly~ become awesome and amazing with superpowers and shit or have a million guys attracted to her. Yet I, like many male and female readers, would adore male characters with pretty similar stories. I also even disliked well developed female characters simply because they seemed to have "not enough flaws" and then, yes, disliked those who had "too many."
Internalised misogynism, much?
Sadly, I am not an isolated case. In any manner, I want to discuss the "Mary Sue" in two cases.
The fanfic OC/Reader-Insert "Mary Sue"
Okay let's face it, it's fucking fanfiction. Get over it. I write it, I read it, people write/read it - because of what reason - oh that's right, a fantasy. I want to read a spinoff of a franchise that is something catered towards me because that's what fanfiction is - a spinoff that caters towards people's fantasies, whether it be sexual or not.
And you know what? So what if that OC is an unrealistically amazing, overly perfect person? If you don't like it - go search for another fanfic. The Internet is big and there will be something, if you can't find it, grow up and write it yourself. Besides, the writer published it so that similar souls could read and find enjoyment in it and if you don't like it - so what? SO WHAT?!?!?!? /rage mode on/
You know what angers me wayyy more than "Mary Sue" OCs? Canon characters depicted in ridiculously OOC ways. That sort of crap makes me want to smash a laptop - but at the same time, whatever man, if you want to write Levi as a lovey-dovey dere or something go ahead, that's your business (unless you write female charactes as bitchy, 2D trying-to-get-in-the-way of main relationship characters or any flat TV tropes, that stuff is already overdone in mainstream media, good Lord).
Not only that, but fanfiction IS truly, a way for one to improve in writing stories. You can get feedback, you can see for yourself how well you are writing, so on and so forth. I know for a fact that five years ago, when I first started writing fanfic, it was completely atrocious and I want to throw myself out of a window after rereading my old fanfiction, and it was also ridiculously problematic. ...But it was a learning experience.
(And even if they marked higher than they should... my school gave me full marks in my Ext 1 English creative writing and folio creative tasks. Would I have achieved anything like that with no practice? Nope.)
You cannot write a good character if you have no experience writing at all. No one can write a huge-ass novel that is perfect without having written a hundred terrible stories. If that manifests as "overly perfect" characters, then so what? At least they enjoyed writing it. And yes, there WILL be people who enjoy reading it.
Basically, "Mary Sues" have some literary merit. I know, shocking.They can assist budding writers in improving on writing believable 3D female characters and also are a great way for both readers and authors to find added solace in spinoff stories.
Let's move onto why I find the term "Mary Sue" to describe...
...as problematic. Wait, did I say problematic? Sorry, I meant sexist as heckie. Aw dayum, I went there.
Obvious anime characters who are hated for being women: Sakura Haruno from Naruto, Orihime Inoue from Bleach, Tohru Honda from Fruits Basket, actually the list goes on. See this tumblr for some great reasoning of why some characters shouldn't be hated.
I never understood the hate for Sakura as I loved her from the get-go. I understood it with Tohru and Orihime whom I read about during my problematic, internalised-misogynistic younger years and wow. Why is it we need to instantly label women with stereotypically feminine traits of "emotional" and the like as "Mary Sues"? (This is the one consistent factor between ''Mary Sue'' characters in my opinion. That and most being popular with the in-verse boys.)
I actually do find that it is GIRLS/WOMEN who hate on female characters as "Mary Sues" more than males for these reasons:
- Too emotional
- Boring person who gets guys too easily, therefore a "slut"
- Gets in the way of yaoi pairings
Males that hate on female characters for being "useless" and treat them awfully seem to lurk elsewhere... there are some who label female characters as "Mary sue" too, though, and it's these people I want to target in this piece.
To all of you: you need to stop.
Too often, it's a way of dismissing a female (remember the meaning of "Mary Sue" directly correlates to a female character; its male counterpart "Gary Stu" is rarely used) who is confident in herself or actually surprisingly developed.
When criticising a female character, ask not why they are so "boring" and "annoying" but why do you think they are this way? If they were a guy, would you still be bothered? WOULD YOU REALLY? (Go Google the Genderbent version now.) If so - is it because they're 2D in personality - because the writer isn't good at writing or something? Let's face it - the real question you should be asking is:
Are they human enough?
Are you hating them because they represent something you strive to be but could never be? Do you hate them because they act in a way that doesn't correlate with your beliefs? Are you upset because their reaction is due to a trauma they can't help?
Don't just dismiss the character as "Mary Sue". It's a weak criticism and is detrimental, too.
If it's genuinely because the writer cannot write realistic female characters (because *cough* they're probably male...) then why not criticise them? And while you're at it - ask how that character could be improved.
I'm sick of hearing "she's just a Mary Sue!" because more often than not, it's a criticism of "How dare a woman be in any way REALISTIC" rather than "that author is writing in a problematic manner."
And in the end - a work of fiction is ultimately either a criticism or a fantasy of our own world - if a female character is a female power fantasy of being an "ultimate female" - feel free to criticise the problematic aspects but otherwise let it be. There are plenty of male power fantasy characters that people admire/turn a blind eye to instead of dismissing as "Gary Stu."
Whoomp, this kinda veered off topic. Haha. Well, I need to go to bed now, will check for errors later.
Till next time~